What has "risk takers" performing on stage, teachers reading and singing to the entire school, and students still talking about events from elementary school years later? It's Lake Street School's "Morning Sing," a weekly event that brings together the entire school community for music, literature, recognition, and friendship. Included: Learn what happens at a Morning Sing and read advice about how to get started.
"The Morning Sing allows us to gather as a community and share many wonderful experiences," third-grade teacher Jenn Simanski told Education World. "It gives us the opportunity to award and recognize student achievement."
Lake Street School in Spencer, Massachusetts, gathers as an entire community of 500 every Friday for a unique school tradition -- Morning Sing. At the sing, the music teacher plays the keyboard, another teacher acts as the emcee, and more teachers read and lead the group in song.
"This program has developed great school community, spirit, and cooperation among grades and grade levels," reported Simanski. "It has integrated music, poetry, storytelling, drama, and art with social studies, science, and literature. This program has enabled all teachers and children to participate and shine."
MAKING THE "Morning Sing"
Each event has a seasonal or academic theme, and the sings often celebrate people who help the school daily -- teachers, nurses, janitors, cafeteria helpers, and those who help in more abstract ways, such as veterans. A Morning Sing committee meets once per week to plan the events, which are held in the multipurpose room.
According to school principal Michael Daniels, Morning Sings follow a consistent pattern:
A familiar song is played during arrival. Words to all of the songs are displayed with an overhead projector.
One class is responsible for this section. Two students hold flags, and one leads the school in the Pledge of Allegiance.
One patriotic song is sung each week.
The school song is sung.
Three students from one class read a poem selected by the Morning Sing committee.
Students and staff who celebrate birthdays during the week stand while the group sings "Happy Birthday to You."
Each week a different teacher reads a story to the group. Transparencies made from the story are displayed.
Student of the Month
Students of the month are called to the stage to receive a packet that contains a special pencil and more. Pictures are taken in front of the school mascot -- one photo for the student and one for a bulletin board.
Up and Stretch
Students stand and are directed to sing and perform motions unique to a song that is played.
This portion of the Morning Sing features songs that the students know and some that the music teacher has taught.
Students sing a motivational song. A basket filled with a lion puppet and books that teachers have read during Morning Sings is given to the class that shows the best behavior at the event. The class keeps the basket for the week.
Another familiar song is played as the students leave.
RISE AND SHINE
"When a class performs on the stage, we call the students risk takers," said Daniels. "All performances are voluntary, and parents are invited, standing room only."
One of Daniels' most memorable moments from a Morning Sing occurred when a Massachusetts state police officer joined the school to sing the "Star Spangled Banner." Later the principal learned that he was a former Marine, so on a return visit, the students were ready and performed the "Marines' Hymn" for the officer. It brought tears to his eyes and to many in the audience.
"Though I have been known to cry very often at the Morning Sing, the children all know it is because they are touching my heart," explained Christine McLean, the school's art teacher. "In the fall we had a first and third grade class combine to sing a song called 'How Can Anyone Tell You, You Are Anything Less Than Beautiful?' They also learned to sign the song. Needless to say, because we have succeeded in making so many of our children feel valuable, wanted, respected, and successful -- it was a song that brought out many tissues."
Kindergarten teacher Mary Mattei can't forget the moments when teachers have performed for the students and when recording artist Rick Charette visited the school and found that the students knew all of his songs.
Cynthia Ahearn, a second grade teacher, watched the Morning Sing help one struggling student gain the confidence to speak through a microphone on stage. The experience encouraged him to blossom into a second grader who was willing to try new things and knew he could succeed.
A high school student she recently encountered stopped to chat with Ahearn about the new things going on in her life and brought up the Morning Sing tradition. "She asked if we still do the Morning Sings," the teacher recalled. "I told her we did, and she asked if I remembered the Christmas play that we had done on stage at the sing when she was in my class. I vaguely remembered. She then said, 'That was the best time I've ever had. I was one of the elves, and I was so afraid to be on stage, but I did it. I've never been in a play again. And then you chose me for student of the month. I remember it was in April. That was the only thing I've ever won. I still have my student of the month picture in my room. And do you still sing the song, 'I Love Mud'? I still know all the words.'' As she left that afternoon humming the tune, I knew my commitment to the Morning Sing had been strengthened."